A house can be built to serve the elderLly

April 26, 1992|By Leonard J. Hansen | Leonard J. Hansen,Copley News Service

Wouldn't it be great if your home served your age better whether you are a senior citizen or a great-grandchild?

One of the most complete and innovative concepts has been developed for showcasing to the housing industry, to senior citizen groups and to senior citizens as individuals.

How do you make your home more "senior-friendly"?

According to Michael F. Pfaff, aging and adult services project manager for the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, Tallahassee, you start at the ground up, studying lifestyle at all ages and anticipating lifestyle in advancing years.

The result is a concept for A-Factor Housing, which Mr. Pfaff and his colleagues then took to adults in Florida to ask their reactions and to find if they valued the features enough to pay more for the inclusion in their present or future homes. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In addition to the research done by Mr. Pfaff and associates, writer Debra Baldwin compiled some tips for making senior housing more livable. Here are some highlights of their recommendations:

Kitchen assistance. According to Roberta Null, professor of home sciences at San Diego State University, "The elderly need as much as three times the available light as a 20-year-old, and glare can make tasks more difficult." She suggests matte finishes for counter tops and floors and under-cabinet lighting to illuminate work surfaces.

To avoid the problem of hard-to-reach items, Ms. Null recommends cabinets with pull-out inserts and lazy Susans.

An amazing new faucet has electronically controlled sensors that turn on the water when your hands are under the tap. (Wave your hand under the faucet, it turns on.) The water comes out at a preset temperature.

Smart phones. Phones with big numbers on inch-square push-button dials make calling a cinch. New phone answering machines also come with large, easy-to-read numbers.

There's a four-button telephone dialer you can attach to your phone; each button dials a different emergency number.

A voice-dialer telephone responds to the name you speak, automatically dialing the number. Other phones that store frequently called numbers enable you to dial by pushing two buttons.

Vision aids. Digital clocks with 3-inch displays make viewing easier for those who have to squint to see what time it is; talking clocks tell the time in simulated human speech (just press the bar).

If you're having trouble reading your computer screen, there's a program that you can get that allows you to type or call up displays in large-size print.

Magnifiers have battery-powered lights, and lamps come with built-in magnifiers. Similar to those used by jewelers, these lamps provide a brightly lit, enlarged field of view so you can read or do handwork without straining your eyes.

Bathroom musts. In the shower or tub, built-in benches lend comfort; textured grab bars, now available in stylish colors, add safety.

There are bathtub safety rails that fit over the edge of the tub, as well as special chairs and stools that go inside the tub or shower.

A new sink from Villeroy and Boch adjusts to a range of heights; all you have to do is move a lever. The sink comes in 11 colors and five basin styles.

Comfort innovations. Special cushions are designed for people who have to sit for long periods of time; these have an inner gel that disperses weight evenly and are covered with plush polyester pile.

Wider doors. According to Mr. Pfaff, "Many builders continue to use 24-inch bathroom doors, and some will use only one 36-inch exterior door, the minimum required by some codes. Wider doors may mean a bit less space overall for those who want as many rooms as possible.

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